This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: April 28-May 4, 2014
When Rockies Players Go Wild at Home MLB Takes a Bite Out of Apple
The Return of Francisco Rodriguez Georgia Tech's Vision for Turner Field


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
28 5 8 2 1 4 10 1 0 0 0

The veteran slugger awoke from his early season slumber this past week, tripling his home run output on the year while nearly doubling his RBI total to date. Encarnacion saved his best for a short two-game home series against the Phillies in midweek, banging out three homers with six RBIs. After hitting around 40 jacks in each of his last two seasons, this is a sign that he’s still got a lot of power left to give. The Blue Jays certainly hope so.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Seth Smith, San Diego Padres

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
28 4 14 5 3 1 7 4 1 0 0

Wow, somebody had a better week than Troy Tulowitzki. (And barely.) Although the Padres didn’t necessarily wrap up their greatest homestand ever (4-5), don’t blame it on the 31-year-old outfielder who lit up opponents on a daily basis. Smith peaked in back-to-back games against the Marlins, finishing a hit shy of the cycle in both—missing the home run on Friday, and then the single (!) on Saturday. His season average has jumped nearly 100 points in his last eight games.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
25 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

For those who don’t know their baseball pronunciations, Plouffe sounds like “ploof,” which is close to “poof,” which is close to “and poof…it’s gone,” which is basically Plouffe’s week in a nutshell. The California native’s single in his second at-bat of the week was as it good as it got, as he went 0-for-the-rest-of-the-week with nine strikeouts in total. This nasty slump has dropped his season average considerably after a pretty good start, though the power (one homer so far after 14 last season) remains a concern.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Khris Davis, Milwaukee Brewers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
19 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0

The guy who’s supposed to hit like Chris Davis—hey, his name sounds the same—was hitting more like Bette Davis, and that’s with all due respect to the First Lady of American Cinema who in her prime might have been a pretty headstrong player in that league of their own. This is how out of whack this Davis is: He walked this past week. Hey, he’s not supposed to do that; he had just one walk for the whole season coming into the week! Anyway, for the Brewers to continue their hot start, Davis needs to reheat back to lofty expectations.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 8.2 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 12

After a series of shaky outings, including his shortest ever on April 28 against Oakland, the Texas ace shook himself back into top form by finishing an out shy of a no-hitter—again—in picking up his third win of the year against Boston. Darvish has made quite a habit of taking no-nos deep into the late innings only to lose them at the last possible moment. Yu’s next start? Wednesday against the Astros, the team he fell one out shy of a perfect game against last year.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 15 5 1 0 3 0 1 1 0 14

The Billy Goat Curse lives on, and it’s eating away at the psyche of the Cubs’ ace. Twice this past week, Samardzija pitched beautifully, including a nine-inning outing on Monday against the Cardinals in which he gave up an unearned run on three hits—but the Cubs couldn’t score nor win for him, again. There’s been a lot of baseball played in the last 138 years, but no one during this eternity has suffered like Samardzija to begin a year; he’s the first major leaguer to allow three or fewer runs in each of his first eight starts and not get a single win for his efforts. (By the way, his 1.45 ERA is the majors’ second best.) Can you say “trade deadline bait?"


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Martin Perez, Texas Rangers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-2 8.2 16 11 11 7 0 1 0 0 9

Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde. A few short weeks ago, we were singing the praises of the 23-year-old Venezuelan southpaw who produced a 26-inning run of scoreless innings. But what has he done for the Rangers lately? Perez has been Hyde-hideous over his last three starts, allowing at least five runs in each after allowing four or fewer in 17 previous outings. As you might expect, something is gravely amiss—and the Rangers want him to undergo an MRI, just to be sure.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Yusmeiro Petit, San Francisco Giants

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 4.1 9 8 8 3 0 1 0 0 4

You never know what you’re going to get with Petit, the Giants’ starter-on-call whenever one of the rotation regulars goes down. Last year, he came within an out of a perfect game; the week before last, he threw six shutout innings against the Padres after being rushed to the mound in the wake of Matt Cain’s kitchen accident. This past Monday came a more dubious outing for the 29-year-old right-hander as he was roughed up by the Pirates in a game the Giants managed to come back and win. It just shows why he may not be full-time rotation material.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Baltimore Orioles (5-1)

We believed in our preseason review that the Orioles would suffer without the presence of closer Josh Johnson, whose 101 saves over the last two years put the team back on the winning track more than anything else. Well look who’s laughing now. While Johnson languishes in Oakland, the Orioles were back to their winning ways—and winning them the way they used to with Johnson, tight and down to the wire. At week’s end, Baltimore suddenly has a 1.5-game lead in the AL East.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Pittsburgh Pirates (4-2)

It was a good week for a rebound in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates recaptured a bit of that 2013 vibe after a disappointing start to this season. The Bucs won a pair of three-game series against contenders in the Giants and Cardinals, with both of their losses by a run—including an 11-10 extra-inning loss on Monday to the Giants. The Pirates’ 16-21 record still looks a bit ugly after last year’s breakout effort, but the kickstart this past week was promising.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Tampa Bay Rays (1-5)

As with the Orioles above, we again reference our season preview and find, for the moment, just how bad we look. But then again, we weren’t the only ones expecting great things for the Rays, who slumped back into last in the East this past week with the AL’s second-worst record. The Rays couldn’t get things right at home as they got swept by the O’s before losing two of three on the weekend to the Indians.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Chicago Cubs (0-6)

There was a fleeting moment of professional baseball this past Thursday when the horrendous Cubs finally put bat to ball, and often—blowing away the crosstown White Sox, 12-5. Otherwise, it was another week of futility for the Flubs, who had a hard time getting runs on the board—especially when ace Jeff Samardzija (see above) took the mound. At 12-24, the Cubs currently are the NL’s worst—and yet, they’ve only scored 13 runs fewer than they’ve conceded.


Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, May 5
The Washington Nationals shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers—sans Yasiel Puig—4-0 in a game interrupted by a three-hour rain delay. Zack Greinke takes the loss, pitching three innings before the rains remove him from the game. Yet, he extends his record streak of consecutive starts with two or fewer runs allowed to 19.

Poor Jeff Samardzija. The beleaguered Chicago Cubs pitcher throws nine innings, allowing just one unearned run on three hits—but his handcuffed with another loss as the crosstown White Sox take a 1-1 tie into extra innings and prevail, 3-1, with a two-run, 12th-inning rally. Even with a 1.62 ERA after seven starts, Samardzija is still winless on the year—and he’s the first pitcher since 1917 to go that far without a victory despite a sub-2.00 ERA.

The New York Yankees gift the Angels three eighth-inning runs at Anaheim courtesy of six walks—five of them consecutive—leading the Angels to a 4-1 victory. All of this, after Yankees manager Joe Girardi is ejected in the top half of the inning for arguing what he believed was gracious strike calls against his own hitters from home plate umpire Laz Diaz.

San Francisco’s five-game win streak appears doomed as they trail at Pittsburgh after five innings, 8-2—but they roar back with five in the sixth, two in the seventh and one to tie in the ninth after the Pirates had rallied. The Giants then take the victory in the 13th when Jared Hughes botches Jean Machi’s sacrifice bunt attempt, throwing it past first and allowing Hunter Pence to score for an 11-10 win.


Tuesday, May 6
After a month on the disabled list, Clayton Kershaw returns for Los Angeles and fires seven shutout innings (scattering nine hits) in an 8-3 Dodgers win at Washington. In his last 16 starts against NL East opponents, Kershaw is 12-0.

Chris Johnson’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth breaks a 1-1 tie, and Craig Kimbrel closes out the St. Louis Cardinals an inning later as the Braves end a seven-game skid at Atlanta, 2-1.

The Colorado Rockies clobber the Texas Rangers at Coors Field, 12-1, in a big night for their star players. Carlos Gonzalez has a career-tying five hits, Troy Tulowitzki has three hits to raise his home average to over .600, and Nolan Arenado doubles to run his hitting streak to 26 games.

The Pirates earn their fifth walk-off win of the year—and the majors’ first ever aided by an overturned call via video replay—as Starling Marte triples to right, then scores when the Giants’ Ehire Adrianza throws wildly past third for a 2-1 victory. Marte is initially ruled out at home, but a video replay shows he beat the tag by Buster Posey. Tim Hudson goes the distance but takes the loss for San Francisco.

In his major league debut, Robbie Ray allows a run in 5.1 innings and two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has his best day of the year thus far with four hits (including a double and home run) and four RBIs as Detroit manhandles Houston at Comerica Park, 11-4. Sophomore Astros pitcher Brett Oberholtzer drops to 0-6 with the loss.


Wednesday, May 7
Different setting, same results between Colorado and Texas as the Rockies come to Arlington and hammer the Rangers after two routs at Denver. Arenado collects three hits (including two doubles) to run his hitting streak to 27 games and tie the all-time franchise mark set last year by Michael Cuddyer.

Miami owner Jeffrey Loria may be in the doghouse of many Marlins fans, but his team is giving them a good reason to come back to the ballpark. The Fish finish off their second best homestand ever (8-1) and approve their overall home record to a major league-best 17-5 with a 1-0 win over the New York Mets as Marcell Ozuna’s sac fly in the bottom of the ninth wins it. Miami starter Tom Koehler fires eight shutout innings but doesn’t get credit for the win; it’s the Marlins’ third-walk-off victory in four games.

Mark Buehrle becomes the majors’ first six-game winner on the year (St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright matches him a little later in Atlanta) with seven shutout innings, as Toronto breaks open a close game with nine eighth-inning runs (seven of them coming from three homers) to beat up the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, 10-0.


Thursday, May 8
Mitch Harrison earns his first win since September 2012, and the Rangers tame the red-hot Rockies to salvage a 5-0 victory in the four-game home-and-home series between the two teams; it’s Colorado’s first shutout loss of the year. The historic news for the Rockies: Arenado breaks Cuddyer’s mark with a hit in his 28th straight game—and is now halfway to Joe DiMaggio’s sacred 1941 mark of 56.

The Houston Astros do not leave Comerica Park empty-handed, as they avoid a four-game sweep of their own by out-punching the Tigers, 6-2. Super-prospect George Springer, in his 20th game for the Astros, hits his first career home run.


Friday, May 9
Yu Darvish, Texas ace and emerging master of the near no-no, comes within one out of that elusive feat when Boston’s David Ortiz spoils it with a single in the Rangers’ 8-0 win at Arlington. Ortiz also helps ruin Darvish’s bid for a perfect game two innings earlier when his soft pop into right field falls between Texas outfielder Alex Rios and rookie second baseman Rougned Odor—but in a controversial decision, the official scorer gives Rios an error after claiming miscommunication allowed the ball to drop. Darvish, who came within an out of a perfect game in April 2013 against Houston, is the third known major leaguer to twice come within an out of a no-hitter—joining Bill Burns and Dave Stieb, who fell an out short in consecutive starts in 1988.

Arenado meets his match in Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto, as the Rockies third baseman goes hitless in three at-bats against the Reds’ right-hander, then walks in the ninth off closer Jonathan Broxton to end his 28-game hitting streak. The third baseman might have received an extra-inning reprieve, but Joey Votto’s homer in the bottom of the ninth wins it for the Reds, 4-3. Cueto has now pitched eight or more innings while surrendering three or fewer hits in four straight starts—something previously accomplished only by Roger Clemens in 1998 and Johan Santana in 2004.

Masahiro Tanaka just can’t lose. The Japanese import improves to 5-0 and runs his consecutive win streak to 33 (the first 28 accomplished across the Pacific) as the New York Yankees, boosted by rookie Yangevris Solarte’s three-run home run in the fourth, defeat the Brewers at Milwaukee, 5-3.

The Marlins are back on the road—and back to losing, even with Jose Fernandez on the mound. In San Diego, the young ace is beaten up by the Padres and, more specifically, Jedd Gyorko—who hits two homers, including a seventh-inning grand slam, and knocks in all six runs scored upon Fernandez in the Padres’ 10-1 rout of Miami. A perfect 12-0 at home, Fernandez is now a career 4-8 on the road with a 3.93 ERA.


Saturday, May 10
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim snag a road win at Toronto, beating the Blue Jays, 5-3. After homering in their first 15 games, the Jays do not go deep; they still own the major league record with 21 straight games to start a season in 2000.

CC Sabathia, returning to Milwaukee for the first time since dominating in a pennant run cameo for the Brewers in their successful pursuit of the 2008 postseason, shows 43,000 Miller Park fans that he’s not the guy he used to be. He surrenders four runs (one earned) on eight hits in 5.1 innings in the Yankees’ 5-4 loss. Sabathia gets a non-decision and remains at 3-4, with a 5.28 ERA that’s the eighth worst among qualifying pitchers; afterward, he’ll be placed on the disabled list with knee inflammation.


Sunday, May 11
Down three runs in the ninth and facing their sixth straight loss, the Mets rally to tie and then, two innings later, notch the game-winner on a Ruben Tejada single to defeat the Phillies at New York, 5-4.

After a major league-leading 15 saves to start the year, Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez blows his first save opportunity when the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira takes him deep with two outs in the ninth at Miller Park. But the Brewers bail Rodriguez out when Mark Reynolds strokes a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth to prevail, 6-5.

The Angels take care of the Blue Jays, 9-3, and end another Toronto streak—that of outfielder Jose Bautista, who fails to reach base for the first time all year and for the first time in 38 games—a run that had tied Carlos Delgado (in 1998) for the longest in franchise history.

The A’s romp over the Washington Nationals at Oakland, 9-1, thanks to two home runs and six RBIs from catcher Derek Norris; his two blasts come on 3-0 counts against Nats starter Gio Gonzalez. Norris had never hit a homer on 3-0—and Gonzalez had never given one up on the same count.


Tulo, Tu Good at Home
During the Great Depression, Nobody was probably more depressed than the pitchers who had to face the great Chuck Klein of the Phillies in his home park of Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl. From his major league debut until his trade in 1934 to the Chicago Cubs, the left-handed Klein terrorized opponents with the aid of a ridiculously short distance to the 60-foot right-field wall, 280 feet down the line—and just 300 to the right-center gap. In those six years, he hit a staggering .397 at home. Away from Philadelphia, Klein still hit an admirable .315, but it was clear that he was lifted to a greater height when salivating towards the Baker Bowl wall.

This season, Troy Tulowitzki is out to make Klein’s numbers look common by comparison. We know it’s early, but the red-hot Rockies shortstop has so far lit up Denver’s Coors Field as no player has ever done at any major league facility to start a season; in 15 games at Coors, Tulowitzki is hitting a jaw-dropping .608 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 51 at-bats.

Tulowitzki’s not the only guy going nuts for the Rockies thus far. Three teammates—Charlie Blackmon, Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs—are each hitting over .400 at Coors; the team as a whole is hitting .355 at home, augmenting an overall .306 average to go with 56 homers, 229 runs and 97 doubles, all of which easily leads the majors. With its thinned mile-high atmosphere, Coors Field has always yielded impressive statistics for Rockies stars (and non-stars) since opening in 1995. Here’s a look at the five most astonishing sets of home numbers compiled over the years:

Dante Bichette, 1995. The early poster boy for Coors Field-aided success, Bichette spent seven highly overachieving seasons with the Rockies—but none was probably better than his 1995 campaign in Coors’ first year, with 31 of his 40 bombs at home to go with a .377 average and 83 RBIs. Keep in mind: Because the end of the 1994-95 players strike shortened the home schedule by nine games, Bichette didn’t get the chance to add to those figures.

Andres Galarraga, 1996. An original Rockie and popular favorite who lasted five years in Denver, the Big Cat clawed opponents apart at home to the tune of a .359 average, 32 home runs and 103 RBIs. Yes, that’s 100 RBIs just at Coors—the only Rockie, and one of the very few ever, to reach triple digits solely at home. Overall, Galarraga smacked 47 homers and knocked in 150.

Ellis Burks, 1996. Joining Galarraga on the hit parade in 1996 was the oft-injured but talented veteran outfielder who finally stayed healthy after two semi-lost years at Colorado and went into overdrive, to say the least. Burks at Coors hit .390, scored 96 runs and collected 23 homers, 31 doubles, six triples, 79 RBIs and 16 steals in 17 attempts. Most anyone else would have been satisfied with that accruement just for a whole season, home and away.

Larry Walker, 1997. No one—no one—had more fun at Coors Field than Walker, who like Burks was multi-talented yet frustratingly prone to injuries. The Canadian native hit .384 and .418 in his previous two years at Coors, but he put even those figures to shame in 1999 when, in a mere 66 games at home, he racked up a wowing .461 average with 26 homers, 70 RBIs and 72 runs scored; his slugging percentage was .879. In 597 career games at Coors, Walker hit .381; his average elsewhere was .282.

Jeffrey Hammonds, 2000. In what was perhaps the craziest game ever played at Coors in 1999, Hammonds—a part-timer playing for the visiting Cincinnati Reds—belted three homers with five RBIs in the Reds’ 24-12 win. The Rockies were impressed and brought him to Denver the next season—and he rewarded them by hitting .399 with 14 homers and 71 RBIs in just 60 games at Coors. All this, and the Rockies declined to offer him salary arbitration, making him a free agent. Milwaukee signed him, but Hammonds regressed to pre-Coors form, hitting just .246 over the next five years to finish out his career.

Quotas and Challenges and Errors, Oh My…
This Week in MLB Video Replay Gone Wrong
wounded of the weekWhile Major League Baseball continues with a video review option that’s hardly the best they could have come up with, we decided to take a look at how it’s all broken down so far this season. (That’s broken down, as in “dissecting the numbers,” not “it’s falling apart.” But either definition is equally valid thus far.)

With the help of baseballsavant.com, here’s a look at some numbers that may interest you: Through this past weekend, there have been 258 challenges—48 called by the umpires, 210 by the other teams. Of those, the Chicago Cubs have been involved in the most with 15 challenges. Of all the reviews, 47% have led to overturned calls. In terms of the types of reviews called for, 46% have involved force plays, while another 29% have involved whether a tag has been made or not.

The one stat we were hoping Baseball Savant would include is not there: That of the time each review takes. This is one of our main beefs with the current system; it’s just too damn long.

iTuned Out
MLB showed once again how overboard it tends to get when it perceives someone profiting off its product without its expressed written consent. For years, baseball fans independent of MLB have started up their own podcasts following one or more major league teams and placed them on iTunes; it’s not much different than the common folk who start up their own web sites dedicated to their favorite team.

According to its own statement this past week, MLB “notified” Apple that several of its podcasts were infringing on MLB team names and logos. Apple took this as a command to remove these podcasts—which they did. But in its statement, MLB claimed that it wasn’t asking to have them expunged—just, perhaps, to have any possible references to the team name or logos removed. Still, this puzzled podcasters like Aaron Gleeman, whose Minnesota Twins-centric “Gleeman and the Geek” doesn’t contain “Twins” in the title nor does it display the team’s logo. He was knocked off iTunes, instead, because the team name was referenced in the description of the podcast.

After 24 hours of ignorance pleading and finger pointing between MLB and Apple, iTunes put the podcasts back on. To comply, Gleeman inserted a new description, replacing “Minnesota Twins” with “that baseball team in Minnesota.”

K-Rod: The Return
All hail the icons of Milwaukee: Hank Aaron, Richie Cunningham…and Francisco Rodriguez.

After his career had gone through a detour landmined with decreased effectiveness on the mound and increased domestic assault charges filed off it, Francisco Rodriguez clearly seems to have gotten his Mojo and some peace back in Milwaukee. In his first 19 appearances this season, he saved a major league-high 15 games, before blowing his first opportunity—and giving up his first run all year—to the New York Yankees on Sunday.

Additionally, Rodriguez’s 13 saves before the end of April set a major league record; he’s currently on pace to surpass the 62 saves he notched for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2008 to set the all-time season mark.

This isn’t bad for a guy who struggled to reach camp from his native Venezuela during that nation’s winter of unrest, and who stepped on a cactus—barefooted—while in Arizona for spring training. But he has clearly seemed to establish a comfort zone in Milwaukee. Traded there from the New York Mets midway through 2011, Rodriguez initially chaffed at the idea of doing set-up duty for the Brewers, but he’s made the most of it—and has earned his way back into the closer’s role with flying colors, even as his quest was interrupted late last year with a trade to Baltimore (he was resigned by the Brewers this spring for one year and $3.25 million).

Rodriguez, who debuted for the World Series-bound Angels in 2002, is still 32 and has already accrued more career saves (319) than anyone at his age—including the top two all-time leaders, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. What’s promising for Rodriguez’s future is that he’s pitching better than ever despite the lack of the 95 MPH-plus fastball he once owned; that velocity has been reduced to an average of 89 this year. That’s reflective of a pitcher who’s mastered the ability to pitch, which will serve him well in his quest to be among the all-time greats. Keep an eye on him.

Better Ted Than Dead
Atlanta’s Turner Field, which is slated to be torn down once the Braves move north to neighboring Cobb County in 2017, may be saved after all. Sort of. Georgia State University has come forward with a detailed plan (complete with renderings) of its vision to turn the existing Turner Field property into a southern campus area rich on sports, student housing and retail.

The existing Turner Field structure would be downsized to 30,000 seats and turned into a football/track-and-field facility, which in essence would bring it full circle; Turner Field originally was the oval-shaped host stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics. A baseball field would be constructed in the north parking lot, where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium once sat; the proposal plans to keep the existing portion of the outfield wall Hank Aaron knocked his 715th career home run over in 1974.

Jackass, Baseball Style
Mix MLB and MTV together, and you don’t expect a Bob Costas interview with someone who played for Casey Stengel, did you? Here’s one of the more fun routines put forth from “Off the Bat,” the new show that airs on MTV2; it shows Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher C.J. Wilson throwing his hard stuff at a shatter-proof glass door, shaking up New Yorkers walking by. Thankfully no one on the other side of the glass suffered a heart attack, but one poor guy did spill his coffee.

The Life of a Baseball Wife
One of these days, our They Were There collection of interviews will include a chat with the wife of a major leaguer—we’ve actually come close on occasion. In the meantime, here’s an up close and personal of Chelsey Desmond, wife of Washington Nationals infielder Ian Desmond, interviewed at length by the Washington Post on the unusual rigors of being a major league spouse.

The Bad News Bees, 2014 Edition
Minor league baseball is kind of like school for the young players who learn the tough lessons before graduating to the majors. Lessons like, how to hold a 16-run lead. The Burlington Bees badly failed that test this past Wednesday when, after taking a 17-1 lead over the visiting Clinton LumberKings, gave up 19 unanswered runs—the final three coming in the 12th inning after Clinton had tied it in the ninth with five. Burlington lost the matchup, 20-17; in case you’re wondering if there was a bandboxed effect at the ballpark, Community Field’s dimensions aren’t too cozy for a Single-A facility (measuring 338-403-318 to left-center-right), but the box score does note that the wind was blowing 18 MPH out to center.

Because minor league history is so voluminous and goes back so far—and because it is the minors—records are hard to find as to whether this was the biggest comeback in organized baseball history. The largest deficit ever overcome in a major league game is 12 runs.

It's Sometimes Good to Let Your Bat do the Walking
Cincinnati slugger/walker Joey Votto might want to start thinking about whether he really wants to take that 3-0 pitch next time. Known for being exceptionally patient at the plate—perhaps too much, as critics have often charged—Votto has racked up a preponderant amount of walks perhaps at the expense of creating some major damage if he swung away. But including his walk-off home run against Colorado this past Friday, Votto is now 9-for-14 lifetime when he swings at a 3-0 count—and of those nine hits, four of them went over the fence. Take the green light, Joey. It means go.

McGrady Come Lately
The latest promotional stunt from the land of the Class-A Sugar Land Skeeters took place on Saturday when former star basketball player Tracy McGrady tried his hand at pitching in an Atlantic League matchup against the Somerset Patriots near Houston. It didn’t go so well. McGrady started, lasted 1.2 innings and allowed two runs on two hits and two walks. Of the 35 pitches he threw, 18 were for strikes. The Skeeters lost, 5-3.

In 2012, the Skeeters let a 50-year-old Roger Clemens come out of retirement to pitch a few times.

Boxberger King for an Inning
Tampa Bay reliever Brad Boxberger was given the ultimate challenge when he replaced the Rays’ David Price in the sixth inning of Thursday’s game against Baltimore with the bases loaded and nobody out. No problem. Boxberger struck out the next three batters on nine pitches. Even the know-it-all sports gang at Elias can’t find an instance when a pitcher struck out the side on nine pitches after entering the game with the bags full.

A Pre-historic Pitch
Maybe this is a sign that the whole idea of the ceremonial first pitch has gone too far, but the kids probably loved it. Before Wednesday’s game between the Padres and Kansas City at San Diego’s Petco Park, a dinosaur threw out the first pitch. It was a baby T-Rex, and it was all to promote a dinosaur exhibit opening locally. When we first saw it, we thought it was a CGI creation people had to watch on the ballpark’s video screen, but no; it was a rather elaborate—and somewhat convincing—dinosaur costume. Well done.

Helpful Hint: The Pitcher is on Deck
The eighth spot in the batting order has been very productive for the San Francisco Giants, with seven homers hit—nearly twice the number of any other major league team.

Spreading the Wealth
In Wednesday’s 8-2 loss to Colorado, Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre went deep for his 100th career home run for the Rangers—giving him 100 for three different teams, having also reached the milestone for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners. Only four other players have accomplished that: Darrell Evans (Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit), Reggie Jackson (Yankees, Angels and Oakland), Alex Rodriguez (Seattle, Texas and Yankees) and Jim Thome (White Sox, Cleveland and Philadelphia).

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Nolan Arenado’s bid for glory ended halfway to its goal of matching the Yankee Clipper this past week when his Colorado-record hit streak of 28 games came to an end—but here comes Baltimore’s Nick Markakis. The 11-year Baltimore veteran ends this past week with the majors’ longest current hitting streak at 18 games—one shy of his personal best from 2011. Markakis is hitting .356 during his run.

League vs. League
Last week we were pumping up the National League as it appeared ready to begin pulling away from the American League in its quest to finally take bragging rights after ten years of AL dominance. Not so fast, replied the Juniors; the AL came surging back in a busy week of interleague play, taking 17 of 26 games from the NL to leave both leagues knotted at 35-35 on the season. Don’t look for an easy turnaround for the NL this coming week; among other challenges, the Mets are going to Yankee Stadium.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekThe loudest noise in a somewhat quiet week injury-wise came from Baltimore, where the Orioles breathed a huge sigh of relief to find out that All-Star catcher Matt Wieters will not have to undergo Tommy John surgery for an ailing elbow. He’ll still be out through the bulk of May, but the loss is far less than he and the O’s initially feared.

Equally unfortunate this past week were San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt (broken thumb, out 4-6 weeks); Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche (quad strain); Chicago Cubs reliever Pedro Strop (groin pull); and Oakland reliever Ryan Cook (right forearm strain).

Finally, from the world of the weird comes this item from Miami Marlins Farmland: Triple-A pitcher Sam Dyson had his jaw broken during a barfight in Nashville. The assailant: His teammate, Chris Hatcher. Dyson will miss six week; Hatcher will miss five games via suspension.


The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.


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